29 Mar 2016
How to win public sector contracts
Written by Doug D'Aubrey

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a tick list you could follow that would ensure you win every public sector tender you go for?

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees and it would be remiss of me to suggest otherwise. There will always be variables beyond your control that can tip the balance – sometimes it may tip in your favour, other times those variables will work against you.

What I can offer, however, is advice on how to ensure your tender is at least in the running and has the best chance possible. So, from my experience, here are my tips on tendering success.

Be choosy

The art of successfully winning public contracts is being ruthless on which opportunities you pursue. Read notes thoroughly, and make sure you fully appreciate the requirements of the work before even thinking about submitting anything.

All contracts worth over a certain amount have to be published OJEC and OJEU which means they will be seen by lots of businesses, and you’ll probably face stiff competition from quite a variety of companies.

Don’t be unambitious, but do be realistic about your capabilities and resources to do the job. The financial rewards can often tempt companies to apply for contracts they cannot really win, and which therefore, waste everyone’s time and money.

Ensure your figures add up

Your finances are important as they are often used in the process to judge your capabilities, and determine whether you can really carry out the job successfully. It’s worth a sit down with your accountant to go through your figures, and ensure everything is clear and well-documented.

Quote realistically

Remember that the tendering process won’t allow you to negotiate on price, something you’ve probably grown accustomed to doing working in the private sector. If you’re used to inflating prices, ready to reduce them after some bargaining – think again when it comes to the public sector! You really do need to submit your best and last price. Don’t go so low that you can’t make money from it, but cutting your profit margin a little in order to win a prestigious contract could make great business sense in the long run.

Use your strengths to stand-out

How do you make yourself appear so much better than the competition on a piece of paper? You may have relied on your charm and sales skills in the private sector, along with word of mouth recommendations, but this doesn’t really fly in the tendering process.

The main thing that will shout out loud about your potential is any relevant industry standards and accreditations you have. Gaining these kinds of accolades can be time-consuming and costly, but ultimately, they will show you have the credentials to do what you say you are able to do. Where public money is being spent, it is very important to have credible companies working on a contract, so accreditations will be a huge help.

You can include a cover letter with your submission, however, so use this wisely. If there is anything you particularly want to draw attention to, this is the place to do some extra selling.

Offer added value

What you can do to help separate you from the crowd is offer added value. This may take some creative thought, but can often be all it takes to turn a no or a maybe into a definite yes!

Think about what else you can do, other than the job requirements detailed in the tender document, that will be of use to the client without it costing you anything to provide. For example, as part of a quote for security guards to patrol offices, you could offer to collect all confidential waste throughout the night.

This won’t incur additional costs for you as the security guard is already on site and being paid to walk around the building. It does show your willingness to go over and above in the service you provide, however, and gives added value to the client.

The chance to tender

Once all the companies meeting the necessary specifications have been identified, they’ll be sent an Invitation to Tender (ITT). Remember all the work that has helped you reach this point, and ensure you put together a tender which helps you stand out for all the right reasons. Being confident you can do something is not good enough now – you have to prove it and show that you have the experience. You need to offer firm assurances that you can deliver what you’re promising.
Is it worth it?

It’s not for everyone, obviously, but if your company has reached the right size and stature – absolutely it can be worth it. If you are at the start of your journey and want some guidance, or perhaps you’ve already begun, but faltered, I can help set you on the right road. It can be hugely rewarding, and offer your company the kind of financial stability you’d only dreamt of in the past. Be bold!